Breakin’ The Law

don't touchAll that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. But sin didn’t, and doesn’t, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on, world without end. (MSG)

~~~~~~~

And law came in, that the offence might abound, and where the sin did abound, the grace did over-abound,  that even as the sin did reign in the death, so also the grace may reign, through righteousness, to life age-during, through Jesus Christ our Lord. (YLT)

Romans 5:20-21

If you know me or if you’ve read my blog long enough you know—I struggle with rules. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a psychopath. I live within the constraints of society and I do my best to “be good.” I bet you are the same.

So let me ask you, How is that going for you?

Paul is on shaky ground. He’s writing to Jewish converts. For Paul to suggest that God’s law can’t produce the righteousness God is looking for, is to say the least, radical. Keeping the law—what else can one do?

If trying to be good enough by keeping the rules is your aim—I’d like to invite you into my heart—you can decide if you share the same struggle.

If I look at The Ten Commandments, I can find a few that I have no problem keeping. I don’t steal. I haven’t killed anyone. I’m faithful to my husband. If you are interested in cutting me the slightest bit of slack, I’m content with what I have. I only lie if it benefits someone else. I go to church whenever I can. I don’t own any “idols.” I was a pretty good kid when it came to my relationship with my parents. I will admit, “Gee”, “Gosh” and sometimes worse things slip by my lips.

Overall, on a good day, I’d give myself a 75%. I’m average and you probably are, too. If you think that’s true, I’d suggest you not read Deuteronomy. If you want to see you’re minor indiscretions in a new light, read Deuteronomy, but be ready to feel some rebellion well up in your heart. If you honestly read Deuteronomy, you’ll never look at money laying on the ground the same way again—did you know picking it up is stealing—since it’s not really yours? God’s Law has no finders-keepers clause. God’s Law is strict!

If that’s not bad enough, then I read Jesus’ words—I find out how silly and meager my efforts are when I read Jesus’ words in Matthew 22 and Matthew 5. After reading those passages, I’m at 0% compliance. Although, I’m inclined to allow myself some wiggle room in how I live out God’s law, God isn’t—or should I say The Law isn’t.

The exercise you and I have just worked through is part of being religious. I’m going to be as bold as Paul when I claim that following the rules doesn’t make you a Christian. Can you see why after this short exercise?

Rules—The Law—only highlight our failure. Unless we are painfully honest with ourselves, we excuse and rationalize our poor behavior. Worshipping the rules can only make one squirm. Rules breed rebellion. Rules cause you and me to focus on US and OUR good or bad behavior. Trying to relate to God by following the rules cheapens God’s precious gift of grace as we push grace aside and attempt to be good enough on our own.

Paul wrote to those who he knew would find his words scandalous this truth; rules (The Law) exist to show us how pitiful and futile our attempt to be good enough really is.

If you can’t keep the rules—REJOICE—where sin abounds, grace SUPER-abounds! WOW!

Keeping God’s law is impossible. Breaking God’s law is sin. Sin is deceptive. It’s insidious. Sin would have you believe that you are good enough, you’re trying hard enough, you’re better than him or her, or God doesn’t care if you break the rules as long as you’re “trying” to be good. Sin is a terrible master—terrible because sin would have you believe you can master it—in the end, sin always masters you.

Jesus makes everything different! Paul pounded that fact home throughout chapter 5 (Romans 5:1, 9, 10, 11, 17, 21). If sin abounds in your life—grace can SUPER-abound. Jesus can replace the death of sin with His life and God’s righteousness. Christ is the only solution to this quandary.

God’s grace, His kindness, His love SUPER-ABOUND in the life of the one who accepts the benefit of Christ’s sacrifice on his or her behalf—have you taken advantage of this life-changing offer? Have you allowed this offer to change your life?

Is this scary? You bet! When I can’t do anything to make my situation better—when I’m out of control—I’m not a happy person. Here’s the message, if you are trying to be good enough on your own—you are not in control—sin is.

If you’re too frightened, don’t worry, Paul isn’t done.

Father, thank You for Your grace. Soften my heart—make Christ’s sacrifice on my behalf enough. Help me to rest in Your grace as the only thing that makes me righteous. Increase my faith so that I only trust in You.

Read More

An Unfair God

classroomSin came into the world because of what one man did, and with sin came death. This is why everyone must die—because everyone sinned.  Sin was in the world before the law of Moses, but sin is not counted against us as breaking a command when there is no law.  But from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, everyone had to die, even those who had not sinned by breaking a command, as Adam had.

Adam was like the One who was coming in the future. But God’s free gift is not like Adam’s sin. Many people died because of the sin of that one man. But the grace from God was much greater; many people received God’s gift of life by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ. After Adam sinned once, he was judged guilty. But the gift of God is different. God’s free gift came after many sins, and it makes people right with God. One man sinned, and so death ruled all people because of that one man. But now those people who accept God’s full grace and the great gift of being made right with him will surely have true life and rule through the one man, Jesus Christ.

So as one sin of Adam brought the punishment of death to all people, one good act that Christ did makes all people right with God. And that brings true life for all. One man disobeyed God, and many became sinners. In the same way, one man obeyed God, and many will be made right. The law came to make sin worse. But when sin grew worse, God’s grace increased. Sin once used death to rule us, but God gave people more of his grace so that grace could rule by making people right with him. And this brings life forever through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:12-21 (NCV)

My first grade teacher seemed ancient to my six-year old mind. Mrs. Moon ruled the classroom with an iron fist. The rows were straight, the rules were followed without negotiation and things went according to her plan. With one exception—his name was Kirk. If Kirk attended school today he’d be medicated. He was the class disruptor. He was so often the cause of the disruption, even when he wasn’t, Mrs. Moon’s eyes sought him out first.

Mrs. Moon had no problem punishing the entire class for Kirk’s poor behavior. To our young minds being held back from recess or staying after school because Kirk was naughty seemed the pinnacle of unfairness.

Who understands fairness better than a child?

If fairness is your desire, you probably find this passage difficult to embrace. Adam sinned and you  and I get in on the punishment—really? If you’re like the me and the rest of my first grade class, you’re probably thinking, Let Adam have it and give me a break! Why do I have to suffer because Adam was a jerk?

Except…

When Adam broke the rule and it changed everything.

That is the biggest problem with sin—it reaches farther than you ever expect it to go—sin is relentless. If you watch the news, you’ve heard recently of some men whose “secret sins” were exposed by a computer hacker. Pornography and prostitution are often referred to as victimless crimes; since all those engaged in the act are consenting to the act. That thought might numb the initial sting, but as the truth is revealed the cost of that sin ripples through families and communities—often irreparably changing lives.

Adam’s sin tainted every other human being, plant and animal. You’ve seen it. The small child, not old enough to speak willfully tries to sneak by mom and dad to carry out some forbidden act. Even my dog tries to break the rules from time to time—with a guilty look on his face.

Adam’s sin changed everything in and around all of us. What is the conclusion? Well, it’s the same conclusion my classmates and I came to about Mrs. Moon in the first grade.

God is unfair.

There, I wrote it. Adam sinned and his sin makes me a sinner from the get-go? Wow. That’s unfair.

The first thing one must understand when reading this passage of scripture is; sin is serious. I know what I do to lessen my guilt and to help me feel that I’m not so bad. Those coping mechanisms are only small band-aids on a gushing wound.   God considers sin a serious matter. Adam’s sin changed us all.

God is unfair. To that I say, “HALLELUJAH!”

Deep in your heart, you know if you were a god and Adam sinned, you would have walked away from the entre deal. I know I would have. With a, “If that’s the way you want it—GO!” Adam, Eve and all the rest of humanity would have been on their own—hopeless, helpless, abandoned.

To me that’s fair. That’s why I’m so very grateful that God is unfair.

God could have left us in our sin—all of us—Adam and his descendents. Instead, God offered, The Second Adam, Jesus, who unlike the first Adam has the power to break the curse of sin. Just as Adam’s sin spoiled all of God’s perfect creation, Jesus comes to redeem all of creation.

That’s unfair! The injured party paying the penalty—you just bristled a little bit didn’t you?

Rules only served to magnify humanity’s sinful state. Rules don’t make anyone better. Rules don’t make anyone righteous. Adam had only one rule to follow—don’t eat the fruit from this tree. I know if I had been in Adam’s place, I would have done the same thing. Rules breed rebellion not righteousness.

God’s unfair grace is our only hope.

Father, thank You for loving me more than I can image. Forgive me for blaming You for the sad state of the world You created and Your creation ruined. Teach me to rely on Your love and grace. Thank You for being unfair and paying the penalty I deserved to pay. Thank You , Jesus for dying in my place.­

Image courtesy of Bing.com/images

 

 

 

Read More

Finding God at Zero

hyperboleSince we have been made right with God by our faith, we have peace with God. This happened through our Lord Jesus Christ, who through our faith has brought us into that blessing of God’s grace that we now enjoy. And we are happy because of the hope we have of sharing God’s glory. We also have joy with our troubles, because we know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character, and character produces hope. And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out His love to fill our hearts. He gave us his love through the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to us.

 When we were unable to help ourselves, at the right time, Christ died for us, although we were living against God. Very few people will die to save the life of someone else. Although perhaps for a good person someone might possibly die. But God shows His great love for us in this way: Christ died for us while we were still sinners.

 So through Christ we will surely be saved from God’s anger, because we have been made right with God by the blood of Christ’s death. While we were God’s enemies, He made us His friends through the death of His Son. Surely, now that we are His friends, He will save us through his Son’s life. And not only that, but now we are also very happy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we are now God’s friends again. Romans 5:1-9 (NCV)

At 2 AM I found myself wide awake. I concluded it was time for some cheese puffs and some late night TV. As I watched the man sing the praises of the gadget he demonstrated, it wasn’t long before I arrived at the second conclusion of the night—I needed that thing. In fact, by the time the infomercial was over, I found myself wondering how I had managed to live 52 years without it.

I ordered it. I anxiously awaited its arrival. Finally, the day arrived—the box holding the doodad that would change my life was on the doorstep. I opened the box to find a much smaller-than-anticipated thingamajig. I used it twice before it broke.

Sadly, my life remained unchanged from this life-changing purchase. Well, except I had $24.99 less in my checking account.

Hyperbole—does it seem like the message of The Gospel is too good to be true? I’m stuck here in Romans 5 because I wrestle with this—so you get to wrestle along with me.   What’s to wrestle with?

  • God loves us so everything should be OK—right?
  • God hates sin—so how can God love me? I seem to sin a lot.
  • If God loves me so much, why can’t I simply have a delightful life without struggle?
  • Depending on the person you listen to, God is angry and waiting to punish sin OR He’s squishy and drippy—only wanting to love (talk about hyperbole).

Hyperbole is extreme—so is the message of The Gospel. The link above takes you to a literary definition of hyperbole. There is a mathematic definition as well—it’s the mathematic definition that helps me understand grace. Don’t worry, it’s not too mathematical but it is very extreme.

Look at the arch—it’s a hyperbola—the distance between two fixed points remains the same. That is where the math archends and the metaphor begins—put your calculators away for now. Look at the familiar shape of the arch, perhaps an arch can help you understand grace.

Imagine, on one side of the arch is the grumpy-old-man image of God. That extreme mean God—the God who wants nothing more than to make your sinful, pitiful life miserable and is just waiting to send you to hell. On the other side of the arch is the image of God who is always in soft focus—the one who doesn’t care about sin, who gosh darn it just loves you to pieces.

Frankly, I’m not interested in serving either of those gods. Neither one makes sense. If God loves me and is powerful, I should never suffer. If God is strict and looking at the list of rules, I might as well give up—I’ll never meet that standard.

There is one unique part of an arch—it’s the apex—the very top of the curve. That’s where grace sits. God is neither grumpy nor squishy—He’s gracious. It’s not the fear of a grumpy God that brings one into relationship with Him. It’s not the indulgence of a soft permissive God that elicits our devotion. It’s faith in His grace.

You and I live on the sides of the arch. People interact with each other in human ways. We grind each other with extreme expectations and we indulge each other with love that overlooks faults and failures. We treat ourselves the same way—quick to both realize and overlook our faults.

God is different. He’s at the zero coordinate—God is at the top of the arch. He acts toward us in grace—something not human—Paul admits that.

If you try to understand God in human terms, you will always find yourself conflicted. You will be working for something you can’t achieve or you’ll give up in despair. The circumstances in your life won’t make sense. There is little joy in suffering for suffering’s sake or because God couldn’t or wouldn’t hear your cry.

If you convince yourself of the truth—God is different—His perspective on your situation is different, His motive is pure, and His character above reproach— life will become one filled with expectant hope. Confident hope that God’s plan for you is; to make you more like Him.

Is staying at the “zero” coordinate easy? Sadly, no. It’s easy to slip down one side or the other of the arch. That is, if you are trying to stay put on your own strength.

Paul introduces the One with the power to hold you and me in place at “zero.”

Father, help me understand that You are not like me. Teach me more about Your grace. Father, let the Holy Spirit teach me the profound, Godly truth of Your grace. Increase my faith so when I am tempted to define You, my circumstances and Your response to me in my human terms my mind is reminded of Your grace and your love for me. Forgive me for blaming You. Forgive me for depending on me. Help me rest in Your grace. Increase my faith.

Images courtesy of Bing.com/images

Read More

4 Easy Saturday Steps

fourIt’s Saturday, so I made it easy for you today. Four simple steps—there’s something to read at the end. I’ll see you tomorrow! Until then—click away!

1. Buy A Book (either real or virtual)

You can purchase a copy for yourself on Kindle. If you are looking for a gift someone else (or for yourself) can I suggest purchasing one of my devotional books. They are all on sale at Amazon.com if you purchase a few, you won’t have to pay shipping.

The Books We Never Read is the best bargain—it’s a 3 month devotional. If you think the Old Testament is irrelevant to your life today, read those books we never read and you’ll find the story of God’s grace told and re-told in the lives of people with funny names, who lived in places with strange names, but who share the same struggles you do. You’ll also find the same grace tucked in these ancient stories.

A Clever Disguise if you’ve read my devotional blog, you understand, Ozzy is my handsome gentleman who is wonderful in every way!   Ozzy is my schnoodle—schnauzer-poodle mix. He’s a great dog that teaches me every day about grace, trust, dependence and obedience. If you have a dog lover in your life—this is the devotional book for him or her. It’s priced for gift giving.

Finding the Holy in a mundane world is a good read for the new believer or non-believer. It offers an introduction to God’s character, Jesus’ example of grace, why grace is AMAZING and the call of the Christian life—doing good things not simply following a list of “don’ts”

2.  CLICK IT!

  • You can find a link to the blog on Pintrest—Repin it when you see it!
  • Thanks to those of you who share my blog link, who have signed up to get an email each day when the blog posts, and who click the “like” button on Facebook! Those little things make a big difference!

I never knew the importance OR affect of that little “Like” button. The Internet is a wild and wonderful place with a ranking system that goes something like this;

The more attention people give a site, the more attention Google gives a site—the more attention Google gives a site—the more people see that site.

YOUR CLICK COUNTS! Even better than a “like” is a “share” on your timeline. It’s without a doubt THE simplest thing you can do to push Finding the Holy in a mundane world forward.

Please like and share the link you see on Facebook. If you are an email subscriber, forward the email to your friends.

BIG THANKS!!! To those of you who do “like” and “share” this blog!

  • If you doubt God’s ability to use the unqualified to do more than I could ask or even imagine, scroll down and peek at the world map in the right hand column. Each one of those “Heartsrepresents someone who has seen Finding the Holy in a mundane world. If you have shared this blog with someone, you are part of a worldwide ministry! God truly is amazing! I’m truly amazed! God can use a discombobulated, unsettled goof-ball to spread His word around the world. Thanks for your part in sharing this blog.

3. Talk to me!

I know some of you are intimidated or irritated by having to “sign in” to leave a message. Let me tell you why that sign in is necessary. There are many kooks in the world—I don’t mean you.   I mean people who bombard websites with advertisements, and SPAM. I use DISQUS so kookie/offensive comments are held until I approve them. It also allows me block SPAM sites once they make a visit.  I promise someday I’ll post some of the goofy comments/SPAM ads.  For the most part they are pretty funny.

Don’t worry—as far as I’m concerned, I’ll never share your email addresses with anyone. You’re safe. I’m dying to hear from you—even constructive criticism—I’ve been away from surgeons for months now!! If you want your comment to be between you and me just tell me in your comment or tell you you’d like it posted anonymously.

Let me know how you are Finding the Holy in your mundane world!

Thanks! I’m humbled and honored to have you visit. I hope to hear from your soon!

4.  Come back tomorrow!

In the mean time, here are the links for last week’s posts! Enjoy and share!

Somehow, we Christians have made faith “magical.”

Has God ever told you to build a rocket ship out of a cardboard box and fly to the moon?

For me to savor the moment I’m in takes conscious effort—that’s an under estimate—it takes work.

Being a Christian should change your today as much as it changes your eternal destiny.

 

Read More

Rhetorical Questions

rhetoricalTherefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.  Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good.  But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.   Romans 5:1-8 (NLT)

Isaiah 40:12-31

Rhetorical questions—there is always one classmate or coworker who answers the question. If you don’t understand what I mean, you’re probably the person answering the rhetorical question.  Rhetorical questions are questions one asks not to get an answer but to drive home the point—there is only one obvious answer to the question.

Paul is summing up his arguments about faith in God being THE thing that matters. Paul sums up his faith argument not only with the assurance of an eternal reward but with the benefits that come from a relationship with God in THIS life.

Being a Christian should change your today as much as it changes your eternal destiny.

Sure. That’s easy to say while I’m sipping my coffee, in my quiet office with my puppy sitting by my side. What happens when I go to work—or worse—lose my job? What happens in the parking lot or as I’m driving down the street? What difference does my faith in God make when I receive my physical results and the news is bad? What am I suppose to do when nothing I try makes my situation better?

It’s odd. Most believers will admit—salvation is by grace alone—but then try to work out every other aspect of life all on his or her own.

That’s what Paul is talking about in the beginning of this chapter.

As far as God’s concerned, the believer is at peace with God—now and later.  The believer can trust God in this life—regardless of the circumstance: in the face of trouble, when the trial is long, when there’s no end or good outcome in sight, when your strength doesn’t match the job in front of you—you can trust God.

Isaiah wrote a note of encouragement to the people of Israel.   Although Isaiah wrote the message at a specific time, it was prophetic—you’ll recognize the Christmas part once you begin reading it. The last half of the chapter is a series of rhetorical questions:

  • Who can measure the universe with His fingers?
  • Who can hold the oceans in His hands?
  • Who can give God advice or teach Him about what is right and fair?
  • How can you compare inanimate things to a living God?
  • Who created everything there is—the very thing or people vexing you?

Just in case you don’t know THE answer to the questions in the list—Isaiah gives the answer.

When faced with hardship, keep this list handy. Better yet, ponder it on days when everything seems right.  When hardship is all you can see, keep Romans 5:6 very handy. (I like the paraphrase even better)

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. (NLT)

Did Jesus die to forgive our sins? YES! Did Jesus die for us sinners? YES! Jesus is our Savior for NOW and eternity. Jesus can to save us in every sense of the word. Jesus came to save us from sin and to rescue us from our weakness.

The first step of faith in God is admitting—there is nothing I can do to make myself better except trust God.

Yesterday, I ended with a question. The answer is found in the conclusion of the rhetorical questions Isaiah listed off. The answer is not The American Way. It’s not the methodology of a doer (trust me, I know). It’s the opposite of what one would think.

It’s the conclusion of a message that begins with, “Comfort My people.”

The answer to the question, “What do I do when I face problems and trials?” is simple.  It’s simple—much more simple than planning, scheming and conniving—it’s wait—wait on the Lord. Have faith in God’s power, in His understanding of the situation, His holiness, His purity, His just character—but mostly in His love for you.

Father, thank you for Your salvation—not simply the forgiveness of sin but for Your work in every aspect of my life. Help me to trust You more. As Your Holy Spirit fills my heart with Your love—I will rest in the comfort of knowing YOU have the solution to all my problems. You are all that I need. I will wait for You to work in my life—I will follow Your lead.

 

Image courtesy of Bing.com/images

 

 

Read More

Living in the Moment

in the momentBy entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with Him, make us fit for Him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that He has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide-open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.

There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit! Romans 5:1-5 (MSG)

“I can’t wait until…” You fill in your blank.

I have a difficult time living in the moment. For me the moment I’m in right now is the precursor for the next moment to come. For me to savor the moment I’m in takes conscious effort—that’s an under estimate—it takes work.

As a Christian, I look forward to heaven—it’s THE great promise for the believer. As I watch the news, look at those suffering around me, long for the day when I’ll see Jesus face-to-face, long for the day when I’ll see my cherished family and friends again—now seems dismal.

I find myself often pondering these questions.

  • What’s the point of this life when there is something better just waiting for me?
  • Is God holding out on me until I get to heaven?
  • What is God trying to teach me about my faith?
  • Sure, my faith in God secures my place in heaven—that’s wonderful—but what about today?
  • Does God have something to offer me today? Does being saved, righteous and justified change my Thursday or is all of that for heaven?

It comes down to the question that everyone asks—the believer asks it—certainly the non-believer asks it—does faith in God make a difference in my life, today?

Many characterize the difference as some sort of holy insulation that keeps trials, hardship, disappointment, and trouble away from the life of the believer. Sadly, some think a believer who suffers troubles is really reaping the consequence of some hidden sin, is being punished by God or doesn’t have enough faith to be delivered from the situation. Every one of those situation could be true—humanity does suffer because of the consequence of sin but this passage indicates something else.

This passage may or may not make you feel better. It’s reminiscent of the words of Jesus, when He told His followers, in this world you WILL have tribulation. Paul seems to take it for granted; the believer will have trouble.

Remember Paul is attempting to change the mind-set of his readers.

What would happen if in the face of trouble you did nothing?

Father, help me understand that I can rest in You and Your provision for everyday—not just for eternity. I will trust you in the face of adversity—trusting You to take care of me today, tomorrow and for eternity.

Image courtesy of Bing,com/images

Read More

Fly Me to the Moon

spaceshipThis is why the fulfillment of God’s promise depends entirely on trusting God and His way, and then simply embracing Him and what He does. God’s promise arrives as pure gift. That’s the only way everyone can be sure to get in on it, those who keep the religious traditions and those who have never heard of them. For Abraham is father of us all. He is not our racial father—that’s reading the story backward. He is our faith father.

We call Abraham “father” not because he got God’s attention by living like a saint, but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody. Isn’t that what we’ve always read in Scripture, God saying to Abraham, “I set you up as father of many peoples”? Abraham was first named “father” and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said He would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples. God Himself said to him, “You’re going to have a big family, Abraham!”  Romans 4:16-18 (MSG)

My husband doesn’t “do projects.” I, on the other hand, like to tear things apart in an effort to make that thing “better.” I’ve watched enough HGTV to make me barely capable and mostly dangerous. I don’t mind the trial-and-error approach to most projects. Often, at the half-way point, I change my mind, concoct a new plan or lose interest and move on to another project.

Terry isn’t that way. Combine his personal bent with years of working under the rigid rules at the nuclear power plant and Terry is not interested in flying by the seat of his pants. I like that. It’s a good quality to have at the power plant. It’s a quality that has fueled many disagreements at home.

My crafty friends and I will look at projects and as the creative juices begin flowing and the excitement builds, those who don’t know Terry will sometimes suggest that I ask him to undertake the project. That suggestion is met with my laughter and my smarty-pants comment, “I might as well tell Terry to build a rocket ship out of a cardboard box and fly to the moon.” Terry’s not interested in most of my schemes.

Has God ever told you to build a rocket ship out of a cardboard box and fly to the moon? You might think that is what God’s done if you’re trying to build your own ship—if you’re trying to master your spiritual life.

In Romans 4 Paul uses an example every converted Jew in Rome would understand –Abraham. You may or may not know his story, but Abraham is the Patriarch of the Judaism. He’s the example. Take the time and read his story in Genesis—if you don’t have time now, here’s the short version.

Abraham was minding his own business when he heard from God. He didn’t have a Bible, church, TV evangelist or the Ten Commandments to read or listen to. Abraham didn’t really know anything about God. God gave Abraham this instruction and promise: go to ­this place I will show you and you will become the father of many nations. Not only was Abraham an established, wealthy man in his own community, he and his wife were childless—childless and OLD.

See what I mean about the cardboard spaceship?

Wow. No wonder Abraham is the example of faith. Personally, I think Abraham is the most excellent example since, as you read his story, you’ll see his glaring missteps, his doubt, confusion and finally the fulfillment of God’s plan and purpose in spite of all Abraham’s failures. At the end of it all—failures and successes—God declared Abraham righteous.  Abraham’s righteousness didn’t come from following the rules—it came from his faith in God’s plan and his acting on that faith. Acting that often reeked of doubt, insecurity and disobedience.

Paul uses Abraham as an example of faith. Faith was the only thing Abraham had—there were no “rules” to follow, there were no other believers to compare himself to—it was Abraham believing a God he didn’t know and acting on that belief.

Belief is great—but faith is action. Faith is a response to something or someone. If I may be so bold, religion is doable but faith is impossible.  Faith is what God is looking for in the believer’s life—faith in God and faith that God can make you into what He wants you to be.

For you and me, following Christ means living life in a new way. Faith is scary and risky because God rarely gives all the details of His plan in the beginning of the “project.” Still there is no miscalculation on His part—He has every contingency covered.

If you want to keep trying to reinforce the cardboard spaceship of religion and your good works, you can—but all the layers of Styrofoam and duct tape won’t get you to the moon.

If you want to live a life that is pleasing to God, faith is the key, not your efforts to be good enough. God can make the cardboard box of your inept, failure-prone life fly—when you have enough faith to follow His design.

Father, forgive me for trying to patch together something that is workable—something small enough for me to understand. Teach me that faith in Your plan is all I need to get the job done. Teach me that when I trust YOU I can live a life that powerful, abundant, fulfilling and righteous.  I can live a life that brings You glory. Give me the courage to jump into the cardboard box YOU’VE prepared for me. Teach me to be the co-pilot of Your spaceship.

Image courtesy of Bing.com/images

 

 

 

Read More

The Magic of Faith

magicSo do we destroy the law by following the way of faith? No! Faith causes us to be what the law truly wants. Romans 3:31 (NCV)

I tell you the truth, whoever believes in Me will do the same things that I do. Those who believe will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And if you ask for anything in My name, I will do it for you so that the Father’s glory will be shown through the Son.  If you ask me for anything in My name, I will do it.

“If you love Me, you will obey My commands. I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it does not see Him or know Him. But you know Him, because He lives with you and He will be in you. John 14:12-17 (NCV)

Open your hands and close your eyes and you will get a big surprise.

Does that statement make you a little nervous? Being the youngest child in my family, I will tell you I got fidgety just typing those words. As a little girl, I fell for my older brother’s tricks a lot. Most were simply good-natured fun but sometimes my brothers got the best of their little sister’s adoring trust.

Faith

Faith is one of the Christian-code words. When my non-Christian friends say things like, “I don’t have faith in him.” or “I don’t have much faith in that contraption.” the meaning is simple. It means they don’t trust a person’s integrity or they doubt the object will fulfill its purpose.

Plain and simple—for the non-believer faith is a matter of trust.

Somehow, we Christians have made faith “magical.”

As a Christian, one must have “enough faith” if his or her prayer is to be answered. If a Christian wants to be pleasing to God he or she must have faith—the right amount of faith. Doubting is a sure sign of a lack of faith in God’s promises.

When Paul wrote to the new converts living in Rome, he knew the arguments those believers would make against this radical life of grace. I imagine that some of the words that flowed from Paul’s quill startled him. Before Paul met Jesus face-to-face, there was no lack of faith in his mind. Individuals don’t kill other people over wavering opinions—Paul was sure—he was 100% sure—that his strict adherence to the law was the correct way to please God. I’m sure he anticipated the arguments—sure, grace—it’s just an excuse to sin—it’s the easy way off the hook when one has an indulgent life-style. I’m sure conversations played out in Paul’s mind as he wrote his letter to the Romans.

Grace and faith go hand in hand. Faith is not magic. Faith works based on the object of your faith. If your faith is in you, your ability to keep the rules, your religion, a friend, loved one, pastor, spouse, TV evangelist, or created thing—you’re going to be let down.  If your faith is in your faith—you’re in for a letdown. It’s not your faith that is weak—it’s the object of your faith. The words Paul wrote in Romans 1:25 give me chills every time I read them:

They traded the truth of God for a lie. They worshiped and served what had been created instead of  the God who created those things, Who should be praised forever. Amen. (NCV)

If you question your faith, let me ask this meddling question: who or what are your trusting?

Read Jesus’ parting words to His disciples. GREATER works—what? Healing the sick, raising the dead, walking on water—humm—maybe we don’t have enough faith. Maybe that’s not the point. Remember what Jesus told those who clamored after Him and His miracles in John 6? It’s straightforward.

The people asked Jesus, “What are the things God wants us to do?”

Jesus answered, “The work God wants you to do is this: Believe the One He sent.” (NCV)

Have faith.

Have faith in God’s grace. Trusting yourself to keep all the rules flies in the face of faith in Christ’s sacrifice for your sin. Trusting yourself to be good enough is not a replacement for or an augmentation of Christ’s sacrifice.

It’s when we put our faith in Christ and His work that we can stop trying to be good enough and be what God wants us to be.

God’s call is stop having faith in yourself and have faith in me—I (God) can make you what I want you to be. Trust ME.

Father when I begin to put my faith in me, redirect my attention to You. I will trust in You alone to fulfill the plan you have for my life. I will trust in You alone to accomplish my transformation into what YOU want me to be. I will rest in Your grace to cover my failures. I will fall on Your mercy when I fail. I will rest in Your perfect, unfailing love for me. Thank You for Your grace.

Image courtesy of Bing.com/images

Read More

Procrastinator Heaven

procrastinator

WOW! I’m in procrastinator “heaven!” A friend is getting married this coming Saturday. I have piles of silk flowers behind me; they are behind me so they don’t distract me as I write. Those bunches of flowers have to be arranged into bouquets, SOON! I keep telling myself I have time. I reorganize my to-do list each day—recalculating when the last moment truly is. Such is the life of a procrastinator. Yes, the flowers have been in my office for weeks! Not to worry—the bouquets will be complete in time of the big day. Such is the life of a master-procrastinator.

Hopefully, you’ve been along for the start of a series of blogs that has both teased me and intimidated me for over two years. I really love Paul’s writing. I can’t tell you which letter of his is my favorite. It’s really hard to beat Paul’s gushing tribute God in Ephesians 1. I picture Paul’s quill having a difficult time keeping up with his thoughts as he begins that letter. Paul’s honesty touches my heart—we’ll get to his honest assessment of himself in a week or so as we work through Romans. His sarcasm also appeals to my sarcastic bent as he points out the ridiculousness of the arguments against grace.

If you are just joining in—you can catch up easily—there are links to the posts from this past week below. I hope you come back—I’d love to hear from you –leave me a note in the comment section. Don’t worry about your email address—it’s just a safety check so I can control the comments that show up publicly. Your email address is safe with me

While you’re here click around and see what you can find. As you find something you like, can I ask you to share it with a friend? I left the widget showing the world map and the hearts that indicate someone in that country read this blog. It’s a testimony to God’s word—His word is powerful and unstoppable—I’m just His servant. God can use a discombobulated, unsettled goof-ball to spread His word around the world—that always amazes me.

I still have a board on Pintrest. If you find yourself clicking around on Pintrest, search for my blog. You can find a link to the blog on Pintrest—Repin it when you see it!

Do you like (actual) books or need a gift? Let me suggest some unique gifts. Perhaps you can share the amazing story of grace with the ones you love. I have three devotional books you can order from Amazon.com. Why do you think your dad wouldn’t like a book?

Finding the Holy in a mundane world is a good read for the new believer or non-believer. It offers an introduction to God’s character, Jesus’ example of grace, why grace is AMAZING and the call of the Christian life—doing good things not simply following a list of “don’ts”

The Books We Never Read is the best bargain—it’s a 3 month devotional. If you think the Old Testament is irrelevant to your life today, read The Books We Never Read and you’ll find the story of God’s grace told and re-told in the lives of people with funny names, who lived in places with strange names, but who share the same struggles you do. You’ll also find the same grace tucked in these ancient stories.

A Clever Disguise if you’ve read my devotional blog, you understand, Ozzy is my handsome gentleman who is wonderful in every way!   Ozzy is my schnoodle—schnauzer-poodle mix. He’s a great dog that teaches me every day about grace, trust, dependence and obedience. If you have a dog lover in your life—this is the devotional book for him or her. It’s priced for gift giving.

Just in case you missed something from last week, here are the links.

My religion can’t be about me.

The crushing truth is also the glorious truth—I am inconsequential to God

It takes one to know one.

God’s grace is a call to change.

Today’s reminder, Paul wasn’t writing to unbelievers.

Read More

For Your Eyes Only

top secretRomans 3:23-24

For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity He put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where He always wanted us to be. And He did it by means of Jesus Christ. (MSG)

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins. (NLT)

Romans 2-3

If you’re a Christian, this post is FOR YOUR EYES ONLY—if you don’t know Jesus personally, click on something in the archives and come back tomorrow.

O.K. Christian, let’s be honest with each other. Don’t you hate it when you’re witnessing to someone and you try to tell them that we are all sinners and that person point out someone “good.” Are you ever slightly concerned that YOU are not the person they point to as an example of someone who God should consider good enough?

Well, if you think you’re good enough because of the title you carry—Christian, Catholic, Methodist, and so on—these 2 chapters might make you uneasy. Romans 3:23 is often the starting verse for those witnessing to an unbeliever. It is the important first step in coming to know Christ.

Today’s reminder, Paul wasn’t writing to unbelievers.

In Paul’s day and in his world, it was the Jews against the Gentiles—Jews were the “believers” and Gentiles were the “pagans.” I don’t think it’s wrong to apply his examples to us-against-them battle that goes on within most churches and, sadly, in most hearts of those who claim Christ.

I’m guilty.

I don’t want you think for a moment I don’t compare myself to others. I do it because it’s easier. Paul tells the believer that act cheapens God’s message—it’s a poor advertisement for a God of love and grace.

Why? Well, the “unsaved pagans” GET IT.

We all know those people who don’t understand sarcasm—if you don’t know someone—I’ve got news for you—you’re the person who doesn’t understand sarcasm. Perhaps you can relate to this. At some point, you’ve heard a joke and found yourself chuckling along with the group while in your mind you’re desperately trying to figure out the punch line. We have all experienced not getting it at one point or another.

Paul’s point is this—the “pagans” get it!  God so loved the world is not a difficult concept. GOD SO LOVES the world should be the easiest message to “sell”—who doesn’t want to be loved? God so loved the world so much He sacrificed His only Son—God really meant it! Why is evangelism so difficult?

The “good” people are in the way of God’s message. (OUCH!)

If you think, as a Christian, God loves you more than He loves a sinner—you make God a liar. Worse than that—if you embrace fake humility the disparity is even greater. What fake humility—it’s that creepy phrase I personally don’t care for—“I’m just a sinner saved by grace.” Why is that creepy—I know some of you are aghast right now. To the “pagan” ear I think it sounds like this, “I’m a sinner just like you; only God loves me more.”

Paul goes to great lengths to convince the religious people that we are all in the same boat—saved and unsaved. It’s not our action, but God’s action that makes the difference.

Paul says it best in Romans 3:27-31. Here is the paraphrase from The Message:

So where does that leave our proud Jewish insider claims and counterclaims? Canceled? Yes, canceled. What we’ve learned is this: God does not respond to what we do; we respond to what God does. We’ve finally figured it out. Our lives get in step with God and all others by letting Him set the pace, not by proudly or anxiously trying to run the parade.

And where does that leave our proud Jewish claim of having a corner on God? Also canceled. God is the God of outsider non-Jews as well as insider Jews. How could it be otherwise since there is only one God? God sets right all who welcome His action and enter into it, both those who follow our religious system and those who have never heard of our religion.

But by shifting our focus from what we do to what God does, don’t we cancel out all our careful keeping of the rules and ways God commanded? Not at all. What happens, in fact, is that by putting that entire way of life in its proper place, we confirm it.

Father, forgive me! Forgive for making Your love a cheap commodity that can be earned by my feeble efforts. Forgive me for thinking that Your precious gift was given to me because I deserve it. Forgive me for thinking I’m better or more deserving of Your grace and favor than anyone else. Reveal to my heart the deep truth of Your love and grace. Thank You. Teach me to live a life of gratitude and worship. Help my life to be a shining beacon of Your rich grace and mercy.

Image courtesy of Bing.com/images

 

 

Read More